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Capital of the United States of America
Washington, DC, the U.S. capital, is a compact city on the Potomac River, bordering the states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s defined by imposing neoclassical monuments and buildings – including the iconic ones that house the federal government’s 3 branches: the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court – but also its museums and performing-arts
venues such as the Kennedy Center.
Neighborhoods: Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle
Sports teams: Washington Nationals, Washington Capitals
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as “Washington“, “the District”, or simply “D.C.”, is the capital of the United States. The
signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country’s East Coast. The U.S. Constitution
provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state.
The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of George Washington, one of the United States’ founding fathers and the leader of the American Continental Army who won the Revolutionary War, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District.
Washington had an estimated population of 672,228 as of July 2015. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is a part, has a population of over 6 million, the sixth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.
The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are in the District, including the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. Washington is home
to many national monuments and museums, which are primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many
international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations.
A locally elected mayor and a 13‑member council have governed the District since 1973. However, the Congress maintains supreme authority over the city and may overturn local
laws. D.C. residents elect a non-voting, at-large congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, but the District has no representation in the U.S. Senate. The
District receives three electoral votes in presidential elections as permitted by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1961.
• Federal district 68.34 sq mi (177.0 km2)
• Land 61.05 sq mi (158.1 km2)
• Water 7.29 sq mi (18.9 km2)
Highest elevation 409 ft (125 m)
Lowest elevation 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2015 estimate)
• Federal district 672,228
• Rank 22nd, U.S. as of 2014 incorporated places estimate
• Density 11,011/sq mi (4,251/km2)
• Metro 6,097,684 (6th, U.S.)
• CSA 9,625,360 (4th, U.S.)
• Demonym Washingtonian
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
• Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)
ZIP code(s) 20001-20098, 20201-20599
Area code(s) 202
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal passes through the Georgetown neighborhood.
Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast. Due to the District of Columbia retrocession, the city has a total area of 68.34 square miles
(177.0 km2), of which 61.05 square miles (158.1 km2) is land and 7.29 square miles (18.9 km2) (10.67%) is water. The District is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland, to the northwest; Prince George’s County, Maryland, to the east; and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, to the south and west.
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The south bank of the Potomac River forms the District’s border with Virginia and has two major tributaries: the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. Tiber Creek, a natural
watercourse that once passed through the National Mall, was fully enclosed underground during the 1870s. The creek also formed a portion of the now-filled Washington City
Canal, which allowed passage through the city to the Anacostia River from 1815 until the 1850s. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal starts in Georgetown and was used during the 19th century to bypass the Great Falls of the Potomac River, located upstream (northwest) of Washington at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line.
The highest natural elevation in the District is 409 feet (125 m) above sea level at Fort Reno Park in upper northwest Washington. The lowest point is sea level at the
Potomac River. The geographic center of Washington is near the intersection of 4th and L Streets NW. Contrary to the urban legend, Washington was not built on a reclaimed swamp, but wetlands did cover areas along the water.
The District has 7,464 acres (30.21 km2) of parkland, about 19% of the city’s total area and the second-highest percentage among high-density U.S. cities. The National Park
Service manages most of the 9,122 acres (36.92 km2) of city land owned by the U.S. government. Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre (7.10 km2) urban forest in Northwest
Washington, which extends 9.3 miles (15.0 km) through a stream valley that bisects the city. Established in 1890, it is the country’s fourth-oldest national park and is home
to a variety of plant and animal species including raccoon, deer, owls, and coyotes. Other National Park Service properties include the C&O Canal National Historical Park, the
National Mall and Memorial Parks, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island, Fort Dupont Park, Meridian Hill Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and Anacostia Park.
The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation maintains the city’s 900 acres (3.6 km2) of athletic fields and playgrounds, 40 swimming pools, and 68 recreation centers. The
U.S. Department of Agriculture operates the 446-acre (1.80 km2) U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington.
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